Chamber News

Chambers Ireland today (9th May 2020) welcomes the launch and publication by Government of the new National “Return to Work Safely” Protocol.

The Protocol serves as a framework to support employers and employees to put measures in place that will prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace when the economy begins to slowly open.

Speaking at the launch this afternoon, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “The process involved in re-opening the economy will not be a simple one. Ensuring the health and safety of workers, employers and consumers continues to be our shared goal. As businesses around the country plan for how they will adapt to operating during a pandemic, today’s Protocol will be an essential framework to enable that.

“The opportunity to collaborate and consult in the production of the Protocol is very much welcomed by our members. It is intended that this will be a living document and will respond to the changing circumstances we find ourselves in over the coming weeks and months. Our own priority has been to ensure that the Protocol is cognisant of the needs of SMEs, as well as larger companies, so that all businesses are supported to re-open, when the time is right.

“We would also remind Government that the process of re-opening will come with additional costs for many employers, as was found in research published by Chambers Ireland last week. These costs will impact viability in many cases. More financial supports, along with the expansion of grants, will be essential if employers are to restore jobs and successfully re-open within the parameters in place due to the virus. We welcome ongoing dialogue with Government on this matter.”

https://dbei.gov.ie/en/Publications/Return-to-Work-Safely-Protocol.html

Following today’s (8th May 2020) publication of CSO data on Live Register and Unemployment Figures, Chambers Ireland calls for significant state interventions to ensure that the hundreds of thousands of people now in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and other supports do not fall into long-term unemployment.

Speaking today, Chambers Ireland President Siobhan Kinsella called for short, sharp, agile interventions to ensure that those who are now in receipt of state supports can re-train, be redeployed and return to work.

“We know that the sectors that are hardest hit, like hospitality and tourism, won’t recover overnight. They will need significant support, particularly in terms of cashflow, to restart once it has been deemed safe and appropriate for them to do so. In the meantime, Government needs to take immediate steps to prevent those who have lost jobs because of COVID-19 from becoming long-term unemployed.

“The present challenges for the labour market are entirely different to what we experienced in the last recession, and this time, have little to do with skills obsolescence. While some sectors face enormous challenges because of the nature of the virus, others, such as healthcare and food distribution, continue to face labour shortages.

“State agencies like Solas and Skillnet have been extremely capable in addressing labour market issues that have emerged in recent years. There is now an opportunity, through strategic engagement with industry and business representative bodies, to tackle this issue and prevent patterns of long-term unemployment from emerging.

“Collaboration with industry, particularly SMEs, to create short, agile interventions to re-train and re-deploy those who are currently out of work will be essential if we are to maintain our competitiveness as an economy. Our message to Government is to work with business in finding solutions so we can minimise the scale of unemployment in the months to come.”

Also speaking today, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot noted the regional and sectoral impact of COVID-19.

“In no way can we assume that a “v shaped” recovery will follow the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. While the official CSO Live Register and unemployment figures show a rate of 5.4%, the significant numbers of people in receipt of the COVID-19 supports paint a truer picture of what has happened to the labour market since March.

“Chambers Ireland research published this morning highlights the significant impact on sectors such as tourism and hospitality, and how that damage is being felt more strongly in economies along the Atlantic seaboard.

“Sector specific interventions must be paired with a regional approach. Regional Skills Fora, who work closely with our member Chambers, must be appropriately resourced to address these challenges as they emerge.”

Chambers Ireland launches new research this morning (8th May 2020) on the sectoral and regional impact of COVID-19. This follows publication of survey results last week on the 30 April which looks at the economic impact on businesses across the country.

Tourism, hospitality, entertainment, and local services all show signs of having been particularly negatively impacted. Regionally the counties along the Atlantic Economic Corridor are feeling the impact of this economic calamity more keenly than in other regions.

  • Tourism is the most affected sector, with over half of Tourism businesses predicting that their 2020 revenue will be about a third, or less, of what they had been expecting going into the year.
  • The Hospitality sector is impacted by the double effect of reduced consumption within the economy as a result of the Covid-19 restrictions and the challenge of operating their businesses within the context of physical distancing, upon the reopening of the Economy.
  • Entertainment, Culture & the Arts are similarly challenged by the necessary public health restrictions as for many the capacity restrictions on their venues sees their business opportunities being severely limited for the duration of the crisis.
  • Local Services, which include many public facing businesses, including dry-cleaners, gyms, hairdressers, and those which are tied to local areas as a result of the nature of their business are often limited in their capacity to maintain operations through work practice changes such as remote working.

This research follows a report published by the Regional Assemblies earlier this week which identify the geographical areas in Ireland that are more likely to be exposed to economic disruption caused by the measures introduced to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Speaking this morning, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “When we went to the polls in early February, it was not possible to foresee the economic difficulties we would face only a few months later. The research we are launching today highlights the challenge the next Government faces, not only in reopening the economy but in supporting the recovery of sectors and regions that have been disproportionately affected by the outbreak of this virus.

While this crisis is hurting businesses throughout the economy, some sectors such as Tourism and Hospitality are particularly badly impacted. Others such as Local Services have been forced to close by government directive and the uncertainty about the way forward has put livelihoods in peril.

Given the reliance of the Atlantic seaboard counties on industries such as tourism, our research shows us that the west coast is the region most impacted. This ties in with research published by the Regional Assemblies earlier this week.

The best way we can support these sectors and local economies to recover is to ensure the towns, cities and regions become even better places to live, work and do business. It is essential that within the next Programme for Government there is a high impact and well-funded response to support these places and regions to economically diversify, during what will be a very difficult few years to come.

Such a response should include the delivery of investment in regional infrastructure to support economic growth, more supports for the tourism sector and a national funded strategy to ensure that town centres and high streets, where so many of these businesses are based, are supported to thrive.

In particular, there will be a need for an urgent increase in funding for Local Authorities. This is critical as these bodies will be tasked with re-purposing town centres, through increased pedestrianisation, wider footpaths and more bikes lanes, so that they can adapt to the necessary social distancing restrictions that will need to be in place as we move to reopening local economies. This funding must come from central Government. Without adequate funding for local government, we risk exposing our high streets and businesses to further economic damage.”

Waterford AirportWaterford Chamber CEO Gerald Hurley has hit back at the accusation that there was no viable case for continuing to fund Waterford Airport.

The claim came as the three State-owned airports called on the Government to scale back funding for regional airports, including Waterford Airport.

DAA and Shannon Group believe the financial supports which the regional airports current receive are not delivering value for money.

In particular Cork Airport stated it did not believe there was a viable case for a proposed increase in the subvention to Waterford Airport as it had not operated any commercial flights for several years.

However, Gerald Hurley says this is a time to look forward and not back and that Waterford Airport is critical to the growth of Waterford and the South East region as outlined under Ireland 2040.

“Tourism and business growth are key factors in the economic development of the region. A functioning airport to allow for both is essential and any negating on funding at this point could be detrimental.

“We would urge the Government to continue funding regional airports and honour their commitment to conditionally fund the the lengthening and widening of Waterford Airport’s runway. We have heard from our members, who are some of the largest employers in the region, that a functioning airport will be of huge benefit to their international trade and we must do everything we can to ensure this happens. Waterford has some of the top companies in the world but accessibility is a major issue for international executives.

“The work/life balance on offer in Waterford is our strongest selling point and with accessibility and a strong focus on the tourism sector, the Airport is an integral cog in the wheel of promoting Waterford as a great destination to live, work, invest in and do business.”

 

Chambers Ireland welcomes announcement from Cabinet this afternoon (2 May 2020) of additional financial supports for businesses, particularly SMEs, who have been impacted by COVID-19.

The supports range from waivers on commercial rates, grant aid, a loan guarantee scheme and supports for businesses who have tax liabilities.

Speaking this afternoon, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “The wide-ranging supports announced by Cabinet this afternoon will be welcomed by the business community. What our members have been telling us over the past several weeks is that they need much more support to help fund overheads and working capital, particularly as we move to re-open the economy. Our message to Government throughout the crisis has been that the risk of under-reacting to these economic challenges is much greater than over-reacting. The economic programme that will be required is unprecedented. This afternoon’s announcement shows that this message has been heard.

“The announcements from Government of new supports will be welcomed by businesses, particularly the announcements on commercial rates waivers, supports on tax liabilities and the new Restart Fund, which aims to provide grants to micro and small businesses. This particular scheme is a step in the right direction, as many businesses are facing huge challenges with liquidity and cash-flow.

“Additionally, we welcome confirmation that the Exchequer will replace funding lost to Local Government through waivers on rates with central funding. Our Local Authorities are providing essential services during the pandemic and this assurance of continuity of funding will be well received.

“Implementation of support is critical. The funds proposed must be capable of rapid drawdown and the organisations charged with delivery are properly resourced to undertake the tasks. Further, we reiterate our earlier calls to ensure supports like the Wage Subsidy Scheme are extended beyond the June deadline. We will review the supports closely and look forward to continuing our constructive engagement with Government over the coming weeks and months.”

Chambers Ireland welcomes announcement from the announcement from the Taoiseach this evening (1st May 2020) of plans to re-open the economy in phases over the coming weeks and months.

In research published by Chambers Ireland yesterday (30th April 2020), most of the businesses who responded to our survey noted they will need at least two weeks to re-open, with approximately 25% noting that they would need at least four weeks. The research also emphasised that there are also likely to be significant costs involved in re-opening businesses, which can be attributed to re-stocking and putting appropriate social distancing measures are in place.

Speaking this evening, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “The announcement from the Taoiseach this evening will be welcomed and taken as a glimmer of light and hope at the end of the tunnel. The past several weeks have been tremendously challenging for communities, so indications that some restrictions will be eased in the coming days will be warmly received.

“From the perspective of our own members, this evening’s news will be welcomed as we now have some indication of what we are likely to expect between now and the end of the summer. We had been calling on Government to announce what the phased re-opening of the economy will look like. This evening’s announcement that some sectors will be re-opened on the 18th May gives us some clarity and timeframes on how business can start to prepare.

“In new research published by Chambers Ireland yesterday, the business community highlighted the cost and time that would be involved in re-opening, emphasising the need for clear guidance and timelines on when the restrictions will be eased. This includes advance notice of the dates that various sectors will reopen, a clear strategy on what sectors will be first, information on what protocol will need to be in place and whether support will be available to financially assist businesses.

“In advance of the 18th May, we call on Government to collaborate with business to map out how various sectors, transport infrastructure and town centres will be adapted and supported to ensure that restrictions can be safely lifted. The complexity involved in ensuring that communal spaces in urban centres, workplaces and business are adapted properly to support social distancing and public health should not be underestimated. We look forward to working with Government in evolving and agreeing this guidance so the economy can restart again.

“In respect of news that we are to expect further announcements tomorrow of additional business supports, Chambers Ireland reiterates its call for liquidity funds and grant aid for business to cover overheads such as rent, utilities and working capital. We also call on Government to provide clarity on supports for business and local government regarding commercial rates. The deferral announced in March was found to be insufficient by three-quarters of business who responded to our earlier survey published on the 9th May. If action on commercial rates is to have any meaningful impact, they will need to be waived for impacted businesses for at least 6 months, if not a full year. Government must also ensure that Local Authorities can continue to serve communities, and so any shortfall in funding must be replaced with central Government funds.

“Without additional aid to support working capital, liquidity and cash flow, the chance of businesses successfully re-opening and maintaining employment is significantly reduced. We await Government clarity on these matters over the weekend."

Business Community Survey April 2020Chambers Ireland and our nationwide network of chambers has today (30th April 2020) published results from a survey of the Irish business community. This survey seeks to quantify and highlight the impact of COVID-19 on businesses in towns, cities and regions across the country.

The third in a series, the survey has over 1300 responses and was conducted between the 24 and 28 April 2020.

The previous Chambers Ireland survey results, published on 9th April, found that 84% of businesses expect revenue to decline by in excess of 25% in the next three months, up from 73% two weeks earlier. Fears about cashflow and liquidity were the greatest concerns of micro-enterprises (<10 employees) with closures and staffing being a concern for larger businesses across many sectors.

The headline results of today’s survey are:

Closures:

  • 85% of businesses have closed to some degree with,
    • 27% have scaled back activity
    • 24% have front of house closed with staff working from home
    • 34% have shut completely
  • Only 15% remain open

Timeline to Reopening:

  • Most businesses say they will need at least two weeks’ notice to reopen
  • 25% of businesses have said that it will take at least a month
  • There is a small minority in agri-food, tourism, and hospitality which will have to wait until next year to reopen

Closure costs:

  • For those businesses that are closed, typical weekly overheads are approximately €2,000
  • 25% of firms have noted that overheads are greater than €5,000 per week

Cost of Reopening:

  • Of those that need to restock, the typical amount required is €3,000 with 25% of firms having to spend over €8,000 on restocking
  • For physical distancing measures, the typical cost will be €2,000, with 25% spending in excess of €5,000

Decline in Revenue:

  • Of the businesses who have been hardest hit (those which have lost more than half of their revenue for the next three months), 60% project that their 2020 annual earnings will be less than half of what they were expecting at the start of the year
  • 68% of businesses have invoices outstanding, with €40,000 being the median amount owed 

Speaking this morning, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “With lockdown measures due to expire on the 5 May, it is critical that Government engage with businesses on how local economies. The purpose of this latest survey was to help us understand not only how deep the economic impact has been on the business community, but what supports they will need to re-open as the restrictions are phased out.

“While the economy was shut down to a large degree in a matter of days, the process for reopening will not be as straightforward. Most of those responding to our survey have noted they will need at least two weeks to reopen, with approx. 25% noting that they would need at least four weeks. There are also likely to be significant costs involved in reopening businesses, which can be attributed to re-stocking and putting appropriate social distancing measures are in place.

“The last few weeks of closure have already cost businesses in excess of an average €10,000, in addition to the projections of revenue likely to be lost over the course of the rest of the year. For the median retailer that has closed, the costs of restocking before they can open will be €1,600, the costs of implementing physical distancing measures will be another €1,000. It will take them a week to reopen, which will cost another €2,000 in overhead costs.

“Of the businesses which have been hardest hit (those which have lost more than half of their revenue for the next three months), 60% project that their 2020 annual earnings will be less than half of what they were expecting at the start of the year. 68% of businesses have invoices outstanding, with €40,000 being the median amount owed, with only a quarter of business owners predicting that the majority of their invoices outstanding will be paid.

“With the above in mind, the question for many business owners is soon going to become not ‘Can we keep going?’, but ‘Can we afford to reopen?’

“This data verifies what we have been telling Government over the past few weeks - we need a clear plan for reopening the economy. This includes advance notice of the dates that various sectors will reopen, a clear strategy on what sectors will reopen first, information on what protocol will need to be in place and whether support will be available to financially assist businesses to reopen.

“The business community needs direct support from Government if it is to reopen. The objective of many of the supports to date, such as the Wage Subsidy Scheme, has been to ensure that employees are retained on payroll for when the economy reopens.

“What the business community needs to see now is a similar approach to ensuring that overheads, other than wages, receive some form of subsidy or grant. Without this aid, the chance of businesses successfully reopening and maintaining employment is significantly reduced.”

Chambers Ireland Back2Work 29 April

29th April at 2.30pm
Part 1 - Back2Work: Workforce Planning for the Future

Registration link: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/3080597791492825100

This 30 minute webinar will include advice on:

  • The process for selecting who to bring back (can your choices be justified?).
  • Redundancy processes.
  • Return to work policies.
  • When you reopen but your staff want to work from home - How to manage a “phase-return”.

 Chambers Ireland Preparing Your Business 5th May

5th May at 2.30pm
Part 2 - Preparing your Business to Reopen Post COVID-19

Registration link: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7171844274583578893

This 30 minute webinar will include advice on:

  • Returning to work after the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Restrictions being laid down by the government to companies and employers.
  • Showing you’re implementing the proper procedures.
  • Your duty of care towards staff and how to take the necessary steps to document this.

Waterford SMEs Covid 19 Steps Towards Recovery

Covid-19 has created huge disruptions to business activity globally and we here in Waterford are no exception. While it is still not absolutely clear what the future business environment will look like, there are a number of steps which we should all take in order to be ready for the post-Covid marketplace and to preserve our own health and wellbeing as well as that of our businesses.
The Local Authority (WCCC), Enterprise Ireland (EI), the Local Enterprise Office (LEO), both Waterford Chamber of Commerce along with Dungarvan and West Waterford Chamber of Commerce and Waterford Business Group have come together to look at potential steps towards a recovery and to outline the existing services and supports which can aid that transition. We suggest that the following steps can be of significant advantage.

Read online: https://issuu.com/waterfordchamber/docs/waterford_smes___covid-19___steps_towards_recovery

Download PDF: http://www.waterfordchamber.ie/images/Waterford-SMEs-Covid-19-Steps-Towards-Recovery.pdf

 

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“Tom Murphy Car Sales Ltd has been a member of Waterford Chamber of Commerce for over 25 years. It’s a membership that serves us well as we find it gives us a platform to interact with similar businesses and puts us in front of a wide audience. Having staged a number of very successful Chamber events, both at our dealership on the Cork Road and at venues chosen by the Chamber, it really puts into perspective the value of networking and meeting with potential customers face to face. We intend to continue the partnership between Waterford Chamber of Commerce and Tom Murphy Car Sales into the future, as the results speak for themselves and we see the value in being a member of Waterford Chamber.”

Tom Murphy, Tom Murphy Car Sales

 

 

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